Fixing two-finger scrolling with the ThinkPad and Ubuntu 17.10

Let me start by saying that I have no idea what I’m doing when it comes to desktop Linux. I’ve been running Ubuntu on this new ThinkPad for less than a week, and Ubuntu 17.10 for maybe two days.

One of the first unpleasant discoveries after upgrading from 16.04 to 17.10 was that two-finger scrolling on the trackpad stopped working. This took a bad situation and made it completely unbearable. I found the following workaround somewhere (I’ve misplaced the reference):

$ sudo modprobe -r psmouse
$ sudo modprobe psmouse

This works, but must repeated with each reboot. Looking forward to a more permanent fix.

Where to Microblog?

Where should I keep a microblog? I have gone back and forth on this since the early days of Tumblr and I’m still not sure I’ve resolved it. Pardon me while I think this through.

I define a “microblog” post as something that does not need a title: short, Twitter-like bursts or snapshot images with a brief caption are perfect examples. Link posts are somewhere in between, as they benefit from a title but don’t need one.

The concern is that short, title-less posts or images will somehow clutter up my precious blog. This is of course nonsense, because my blog is nowhere near precious. And by precious I mean:

derogatory: affectedly concerned with elegant or refined behavior, language, or manners: his exaggerated, precious manner.

(This doesn’t mean it’s not priceless to me. It very much is.)

My blog has never been “serious”. I don’t worry about sticking to publishing timelines or making sure I’ve thought everything through with each post. I usually don’t even edit before posting. I reserve that for the “oh shit!” moments after clicking “Publish”.

I like Dave Winer’s definition:

“Blogging is thinking aloud into an outliner that has a Publish button on it.”

That’s more my style.

I guess I’ve found my answer, then. Microblog posts are going to remain right here at for now. And I’m going to let them flow right through the home page with everything else.

I am, however, leaving microblog posts out of the main RSS feed, so if you don’t like the noise, that’s one way to filter it out.

Oh, and if you don’t have a blog or just want a microblog, please consider Manton Reece’s service. It’s terrific.

Thanks for listening.

Organize Your Life With Org-Mode

Karl Voit:

Never in my life have I seen a more beautiful piece of software that scales well from very simple note taking to the most complex workflows you can imagine. Its community is awesome, you can meet the most nicest people.

To me, Org-mode solves things like simple todo lists, note taking, project management, spreadsheet calculations, calendar, contact management, file management, blogging system, knowledge base, quantified self, lifelogging, reference management, bookmark collection and so forth.

Org-mode has ended my search for most of the things I use a computer for. There’s nothing like it.

~ lsb_release -a
No LSB modules are available.
Distributor ID: Ubuntu
Description: Ubuntu 17.10
Release: 17.10
Codename: artful

So that worked I guess.

I need to say it again… I love It feels like something new and it’s pretty great. Sign up. Post stuff. Interact. Own your shit.

I watch a lot of YouTube videos and I am completely happy having paid for Red. The lack of ads makes me happy and is worth the money. Canceling HBO covered the cost and is a totally fair trade.

My Linux Experience – Day Two

So here I sit in front of a new-to-me Thinkpad X1 Carbon from 2015. It’s running Linux. I spent yesterday wiping it of Windows 10 and installing Ubuntu 16.04.

The installation process wasn’t too bad. It was much better than I remember. I opted for Ubuntu because it seems like the easiest path to actually using Linux. I’m sure there are other options that I’ll want to try later. First things first.

I like the hardware. It’s just sort of solid and businesslike. It feels like something I can use and toss around without too much worry. This is partly due to only paying $300 for it, but it’s mostly because the thing feels like it could take a beating. The screen is nice. Not Retina MBP nice, but nice.

I have to admit that I don’t mind not feeling like Jony Ive is whispering in my ear every time I open it.

The ThinkPad’s keyboard took a minute to adapt to, but only a minute. I’ll tell you right now it’s miles more enjoyable to type on than my 2016 MBP. The keys have a lot of travel, and they inspire confidence. Oh, and there’s an actual Escape key, which I’ve missed.

Let’s talk about the trackpad. Something is wrong with the trackpad. Something must be wrong with it. Using the trackpad is the most frustrating, inaccurate, unpredictable thing. I’ll leave final judgment for later, because I assume there’s a fix out there. There has to be a fix or the whole machine is going to go sailing out a window soon.

I haven’t explored software much. I’ve got Emacs (Spacemacs) all set up. That took some finagling, as the bundled package was 24.3 or something and I needed 25.x. The package system and software installs are going to take some getting used to. I expected that. My email is all local via mbsync and viewed in Mu4e. At first I thought managing email in Emacs was a gimmick but it turns out to be pretty great.

Other than Emacs, right now it’s mostly just Firefox and a terminal. This machine isn’t intended to replace my Macs. It’s more of an experiment to see how far I can get. I’ll keep you posted.


I don’t think I need a smart speaker

Homepod top
Lots of chatter this week around Apple’s (belated) release of the HomePod. It’s mostly the usual wild speculation and punditry, but of course I’ve been following along, as I’m interested in whether or not I should buy one.

I don’t think I’ll buy one.

I’m not an audiophile, but I do appreciate quality sound and equipment. The HomePod is interesting to me. Early reports indicate that the sound quality is a winner.

There are several Sonos speakers in my house and I like them just fine. The Play:5 speakers fill (and can overpower) the rooms they’re in. They sound great. I have Sonos in the bedroom, home office, darkroom, living room, and basement workroom. I have more Sonos than rooms to put them in. I’m probably not the best case for determining the usefulness of a HomePod. If I were just starting out it would be a tougher decision.

I also have several Echo devices. I don’t use them for listening to music because they sound terrible. I tried, because being able to say, “Alexa, play songs by Rush” was neat. The novelty wore off. I’m finding that I don’t choose music by thinking about what I want to hear. I choose it by browsing through a library: either shelves of vinyl records or Spotify. I rarely know what I want to hear without looking at something. This makes the voice-driven “smart” speaker features less interesting to me.

Speaking of music, I’ve sort of settled on Spotify. Apple Music is fine and always right there but my family prefers Spotify and I didn’t like paying for both. One could argue that since I just said that I like to first browse music, then play it, using Spotify and AirPlay to the HomePod would be fine. It would, but I’m already doing that with the Sonos (plural) so again, no need for a HomePod.

There are a couple things that could steer me toward a HomePod. First, Apple could finally get its shit together with the Home app and HomeKit. Currently I find Alexa to be more flexible and easier to use for smart home stuff. Second, Siri has to not suck quite so much. People often defend Siri to me, saying “It works great for me” or “Maybe you’re doing it wrong” but Siri and I just don’t get along. Picture me screaming obscenities at my wrist. Alexa isn’t perfect, but Siri truly pisses me off. If Siri on the HomePod somehow works significantly better than Siri everywhere else I’ve tried it, I might feel differently about the HomePod. Third, I could swing back to using Apple Music for streaming. Convenience is compelling.

This is all just me trying to convince myself to not spend $350 on yet another device I don’t need. I’m tempted to take Sonos’ “Two Sonos Ones for $350” offer just to bury any thoughts of getting a HomePod, but I kind of want to keep my options open. One never knows what’ll happen.